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APPRECIATION never goes out of style. Yet, what's in style in tokens of appreciation — promotional items, awards, event gifts — is quick to change. Smart event planners know that coveted giveaways not only demonstrate due gratitude, they also win it back.


When it comes to premiums and promotional products, nothing goes over like high-tech gadgets. That's especially true when those gadgets are both fun and functional.

Albany, N.Y.-based Souders Promotions caters to the computer age with products on the order of the jump drive it recently created for an educational conference client. Already loaded with PowerPoint presentations, sponsorship information and other essential conference materials, the drive replaced the usual attendee binder, “which is quite cumbersome for the attendee to carry all day and to bring home when the conference is completed,” says Souders national account manager Michelle Sentmier.

Not only does the drive eliminate paper waste, provide a reusable means for portable information storing and look pretty snazzy on a logo-printed lanyard or key chain, it's a great bet for tight turnarounds. While Sentmier recommends that clients plan custom-printed promotional items 90 to 120 days ahead of their event “to allow for artwork, prototypes, product proofs and overseas production,” a loaded USB drive can be delivered in a mere 24 hours.


Taking the USB drive a few miles further, New Rochelle, N.Y.-based Blumberg Marketing delivers drives in custom shapes to correspond with client identity. That means a beverage company can bestow bottle-shaped drives on their guests while a realty company might opt for drives in the shape of houses.

But that's not all Blumberg is doing to give technophile clients — and their equally savvy salespeople, customers and event attendees — the high-function premiums and promotions they desire. Company president Carole Blumberg counts the versatile computer accessory kit as one of her most popular buys. “I can build kits for my clients at various price points,” she notes. For a pharmaceutical client with a per-unit budget in the range of $25, for instance, Blumberg can assemble a kit “with a flash drive, mouse and USB connector, packaged in a very nice case branded with the company logo,” she suggests.

No matter how high the technology of the product, Blumberg cautions that without good-sense strategizing, even the hottest gadgetry will fizzle. “The most expensive marketing is marketing that doesn't work,” she states. Common mistakes she sees repeated again and again include waiting until the last minute to plan for promotional products and then squandering budget dollars on items such as printed pens. “You don't want to spend tons of money on a trade show giveaway,” Blumberg says. But at the same time, “You want something to bring people into your booth for meaningful conversation.” She adds: “I mean, how many pens can a person use?”


When awards are in order, originality is in demand, says Kelle Reich of Oakland, Calif.-based MK Shannon Awards & Rewards. Corporate clients “seem to be looking for something different,” Reich states, noting a trend toward items that are “artistic and meaningful, like a thoughtfully chosen gift.”

MK Shannon answers the call for creativity with what Reich describes as “sculpture that is art, given as an award.” She adds that the company “creates commissioned sculptures that are designed in conjunction with concepts valued by the client.” Questions MK Shannon considers when working with a client to design a one-of-a-kind award piece include: “‘How will recipients feel when receiving this award? Will this be a highly prized award? Will this award be one they proudly display, or one that is hung behind a door or put in a drawer?’” Reich notes.

MK Shannon awards are individually cast in high-quality pewter and hand-finished at an art foundry, according to Reich. Free of the lead and pot metal Reich says often are found in awards of lesser quality, MK Shannon pieces can be finished in gold or silver plate, brushed pewter or a combination of finishes.

With their uniqueness and quality of craftsmanship, MK Shannon designs have won over such clients as the government of the United Arab Emirates, which honors outstanding citizens with the MK Shannon-designed Abu Dhabi Award. And winners of Special Events Magazine's Gala Award receive an MK Shannon trophy to display with pride.


Requiring neither technological know-how nor artistic inclination, chocolate “is the No. 1 gift in the entire world,” according to Ovation Chocolates' Marcy Marks. The president of the Torrance, Calif.-based manufacturer of custom-packaged chocolate products notes that the universally loved delicacy “crosses every gender, age and culture barrier.”

Acknowledging that turnaround time is as much a client priority as quality of product, Marks notes that Ovation recently introduced a new line of customizable tins. Whether filled with Ovation's Buttermints, Chocolate Frosty Mints or Dark Chocolate Espresso Beans, the containers can be printed with any type of artwork from a baby photo to a corporate logo. “This makes this line perfect for any conceivable event — bridal showers, wedding favors, trade shows, bar mitzvahs, golf tournaments, fundraisers, charity events, corporate galas and more,” Marks says.

To help ensure that Ovation products are delivered as quickly as possible, event producers “should make it routine in the planning process to ask every corporate client for a high-resolution copy of its logo in digital format — one that's suitable for four-color printing, not an image downloaded from the Internet,” Marks advises. “I suggest asking clients for whatever image they used to print brochures and business cards.” She adds, “When turnaround time is tight, the biggest obstacle to production is usually incorrect or unavailable artwork.”


Blumberg Marketing, 914/712-9282; MK Shannon Awards & Rewards, 530/872-2561; Ovation Chocolates, 800/961-2387; Souders Promotions, 800/475-2079

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